TouchJet Pond

If you've ever seen a SmartBoard in a classroom, you know how cool it is to be able to walk up to a projector screen with a pen and interact with a desktop environment. The only real downside to most SmartBoard setups is the use of Windows, usually an older version of Windows that doesn't play all that well with what is essentially a touch environment. TouchJet has taken this idea and replaced Windows with Android, and instead of making this hardware mostly exclusive to classrooms it's something anyone can buy and set up in their homes.

Here's a quick look at how all of this works.

The core of TouchJet Pond is essentially three parts. The projector itself isn't all that special by projector standards, being only an 80 lumen projection at only 1920x1080 resolution. The projector is small, lightweight, and easy to mount. Instead of being just a pass-through projector for whatever you put in the HDMI port, the Pond is running Android 4.4.2 with access to the Google Play Store over WiFi. The image projected basically looks like an Android tablet, which is something we've seen before but not nearly as interactive as the Pond. To interact with it you have two different tools at your disposal. There's a stylus, which lets you walk up to the screen and touch the surface you're projecting on, and there's a remote for controlling basic settings and a D-Pad for basic navigation. It's a fairly basic setup, but when you look at what you can do by putting Android on a wall or on a floor and let kids go nuts, there's a lot of fun to be had here.

Accessing all of the Google Play Store means this projector can get you just about anything. You can use this as a multimedia system with Netflix or Google Play, or you can get up close and draw right on the screen. Since the kit comes with two pens, multiplayer gaming becomes an option as well. Using the stylus is a ton of fun, as long as the sensor on the front of the projector can see the tip of the pen at all times. When you press down with the pen, it glows red and the sensor uses that for positioning. If your body gets in the way everything stops, which makes games like Fruit Ninja something you need to do carefully. When everything works, it's a fantastic experience.

With the HDMI input and Audio output you can extend this to more than just Android things, as well as boost the admittedly meager speaker built in to this setup. The only real limitations are with the projector itself. You need a fairly dark room to really enjoy the experience, and the chances of it being updated to any modern form of Android aren't particularly high. This clearly isn't something for someone looking to create a home entertainment system, but for a portable entertainment system or something for kids to explore on it works.

For what you get in this package, $599 is kind of a big ask. TouchJet has some really cool ideas here, basically bringing the Smart Board into the home with Android as its OS, but for the same price you could get two nice Android tablets running modern versions of the OS for the home. It's ultimately bout how it gets used, as clearly this isn't something designed for mass appeal, but it seems likely that a lot of folks who would be interested in something like this would want to see a more capable, modern successor before getting overly excited.

$599 at Amazon